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Does 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 belong in the Bible?

1 Corinthians 14:34–35

First Corinthians 14:34–35 reads, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” In addition to being difficult to interpret, seeming to say that women must be absolutely silent in church, there are some textual issues as well. In a minority of Greek manuscripts, the two verses appear after verse 40 rather than after verse 33.

As a result of the varied placement of 1 Corinthians 14:34–35, some textual critics and scholars contend that the two verses were not originally part of Paul’s letter. Rather, these verses were a “gloss,” that is, a scribal note in the margins of a manuscript. Through the years, the gloss was accidentally (or intentionally) added to the actual text of 1 Corinthians. Why else would some manuscripts have the two verses after verse 33 while other manuscripts place them after verse 40?

The problem with this view is that the content of 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 appears somewhere in every copy of 1 Corinthians. There is no Greek or Latin manuscript that lacks the two verses. Further, the vast majority of manuscripts contain the two verses after verse 33. It is only a relatively small number of manuscripts in one of the three major manuscript traditions that place the two verses after verse 40. The textual evidence for including the two verses after verse 33 is overwhelming.

While a textual issue like this should never be ignored, the science of textual criticism leads to the conclusion that 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 belongs precisely where it is in today’s translations. It would be highly unusual for a scribal error or intentional insertion to affect every biblical manuscript in every manuscript tradition. The fact that some manuscripts contain the same content at a slightly different location is interesting, but it does not block the content from being considered part of Paul’s original letter.

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Questions about 1 Corinthians

Does 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 belong in the Bible?
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This page last updated: March 28, 2023